Equity Jeff nominations set up an impossible contest of excellence in Chicago theater

SHARE Equity Jeff nominations set up an impossible contest of excellence in Chicago theater
SHARE Equity Jeff nominations set up an impossible contest of excellence in Chicago theater

Scan the list of the season’s just-announced Jeff Awards nominations —honoring excellence in Equity productions that opened between Aug. 1, 2014 and July 31, 2015 – and there can be only one conclusion. It is this: In Chicago, a city whose theaters continue to create one astonishing work after another —of every genre, and on every scale —any sense of a “contest” should begin and end with the nominations list.

In nearly every category —whether a play or a musical on a grand or a “midsize” scale, whether a new work or an adaptation, whether a classic play or a musical, whether a singular performance or a clockwork ensemble —the only word to be affixed to nearly every nominee is “exceptional.”

For example, home in on the productions of plays by midsize theaters: Forced to choose, would I have rather experienced the day-long Greek tragedy marathon, “All Our Tragic,” by The Hypocrites, or embarked on the epic South Pole journey to Antarctica captured in Irish Theatre’s “The White Road.” An impossible choice to make.

And then, in the category of grand-scale musicals: Would I have traded the chance to see Paramount Theatre’s opera house-worthy production of “Les Miserables” (and, for the record, that Aurora-based marvel, which had Jeff eligibility for the first time this season, led the overall tally with 16 nominations for several different productions), for the chance to see Drury Lane’s “Billy Elliot” (the best edition of that show in memory), or the glorious “King and I” revival staged at Marriott? All three were phenomenal.

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte stars as The King and Heidi Kettenring portrays Anna in “The King and I” at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. | Mark Campbel

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte stars as The King and Heidi Kettenring portrays Anna in “The King and I” at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. | Mark Campbel

In any case, the choices will be made and the winners will be announced at the Jeffs ceremony to be held Oct. 5 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Emceeing the festivities will be actresses Cheryl Lynn Bruce and E. Faye Butler. The evening will include performances featuring cast members from nominated musicals and revues, with video segments from nominated plays. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with pre-show appetizers and cash bar, followed by the ceremony and a lavish buffet reception immediately afterward. Advance-purchase tickets, which include the ceremony and pre- and post-show parties, are $55-$75. The evening is black tie-optional and the public is invited to attend. For tickets, visitwww.jeffawards.org.

Following is a list of the 2015 Equity Jeff Award nominees. To see a video of Friday’s nominations presentation featuring Michael Shannon (of Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre and “Man of Steel” fame) visit http://www.JeffAwards.org.

+ PRODUCTION, PLAY (LARGE): “Airline Highway” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; “The Diary of Anne Frank” —Writers Theatre; “The Little Foxes” – Goodman Theatre; “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium; “Native Son” – Court Theatre and American Blues Theater.

+ PRODUCTION, PLAY (MIDSIZE): “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites; “The Downpour” – Route 66 Theatre Company; “The Royale” – American Theater Company; “Travesties” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago.

+ PRODUCTION – MUSICAL (LARGE): “Billy Elliot, the Musical” – Drury Lane Productions; “City of Angels” – The Marriott Theatre; “The King and I” – The Marriott Theatre; “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre; “Mary Poppins” – Paramount Theatre; “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre.

+ PRODUCTION – MUSICAL (MIDSIZE): “The Addams Family” – Mercury Theater Chicago; “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” – Porchlight Music Theatre; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Porchlight Music Theatre.

+ PRODUCTION – REVUE: “Men of Soul with a Tribute to Bill Withers” – Black Ensemble Theater; “Panic on Cloud 9” – The Second City; “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center; “Sondheim on Sondheim” – Porchlight Music Theatre.

+ DIRECTOR – PLAY: Jaime Castañeda – “The Royale” – American Theater Company; David Catlin – “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium; Sean Graney – “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites; Nick Sandys – “Travesties” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; Erica Weiss – “The Downpour” – Route 66 Theatre Company; Henry Wishcamper – “The Little Foxes” – Goodman Theatre.

A scene from Lisa D’Amour’s “Airline Highway” at Steppenwolf Theatre. | Photo by Michael Brosilow

A scene from Lisa D’Amour’s “Airline Highway” at Steppenwolf Theatre. | Photo by Michael Brosilow

+ DIRECTOR – MUSICAL: Nick Bowling – “City of Angels” – The Marriott Theatre; Nick Bowling – “The King and I” – The Marriott Theatre; Jim Corti – “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre; Jim Corti – “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre; Rachel Rockwell – “Billy Elliot, the Musical” – Drury Lane Productions; Rachel Rockwell – “Mary Poppins” – Paramount Theatre.

+ DIRECTOR – REVUE: Nick Bowling – “Sondheim on Sondheim” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Daryl Brooks – “Men of Soul with a Tribute to Bill Withers” – Black Ensemble Theater; Brian Russell – “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center.

+ ENSEMBLE: “Airline Highway” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites; “The Apple Family Plays” – TimeLine Theatre Company; “The Humans” – American Theater Company; “The Project(s)” – American Theater Company;

“A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; “Season on the Line” – The House Theatre of Chicago; “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago.

+ ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY: Allen Gilmore (Vladimir) – “Waiting for Godot” – Court Theatre; Francis Guinan (Tommy) – “The Night Alive” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company Francis Guinan (Ray); – “White Guy on the Bus” – Northlight Theatre; Jerod Haynes (Bigger) – “Native Son” – Court Theatre and American Blues Theater; Jerod Haynes (Jay) – “The Royale” – American Theater Company; Mark L. Montgomery (Anthony Reilly) – “Outside Mullingar” – Northlight Theatre; Larry Yando (King Lear) – “King Lear” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

+ ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL: Anthony Crivello (Louis Prima) – “Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara” – HackFeld LLC Nicholas Dantes (Billy) – “Billy Elliot, the Musical” – Drury Lane Productions; Devin DeSantis (Tommy) – “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre; Karl Hamilton (Gomez Addams) – “The Addams Family” – Mercury Theater Chicago; Bill Larkin (Prologus/Pseudolus) – “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” – Porchlight Music Theatre.

+ ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY: Brenda Barrie (Robin) – “The Downpour” – Route 66 Theatre Company; Janet Ulrich Brooks (Sonia) – “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” – Goodman Theatre; Hillary Clemens (Crystal) – “Bethany” – The Gift Theatre;Kate Fry (Rosemary Muldoon) – “Outside Mullingar” – Northlight Theatre;Mariann Mayberry (Shelley) – “Grand Concourse” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company;Lia D. Mortensen (Julianna) – “The Other Place” – Profiles Theatre; Caroline Neff (Hazel) – “The Downpour” – Route 66 Theatre Company; Eileen Niccolai (Serafina Delle Rose) – “The Rose Tattoo” – Shattered Globe Theatre.

+ ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL: Shoshana Bean (Cee Cee Bloom) – “Beaches, A New Musical” – Drury Lane Productions in association with Jennifer Maloney-Prezioso; Rebecca Finnegan (Nellie Lovett) – “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Heidi Kettenring (Anna Leonowens) – “The King and I” – Marriott Theatre; Megan McGinnis (Marianne Dashwood) – “Sense and Sensibility” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Susie McMonagle (Mrs. Wilkinson) – “Billy Elliot, the Musical” – Drury Lane Productions.

+ ACTOR OR ACTRESS IN A REVUE: Michael Monroe Goodman (Young Johnny) – “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center; Cory Goodrich (June Carter Cash) – “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center; John Hartman (Ensemble) – “ Panic on Cloud 9” – The Second City; James Earl Jones II (Ensemble) – “Sondheim on Sondheim” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Kent M. Lewis (Johnny) – “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center.

+ SOLO PERFORMANCE: Ronald Keaton (Winston Churchill) – “Churchill” – SoloChicago Theatre and Greenhouse Theater Center; Linda Reiter (Mary) – “The Testament of Mary” – Victory Gardens Theater; Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Donny) – “Twisted Melodies” – Congo Square Theatre Company; Steven Strafford (Himself) – “Methtacular!” – About Face Theatre in association with Justin Brill.

+ ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY: Greg Matthew Anderson (Tristan Tzara) – “Travesties” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company Behzad Dabu (Amit) – “Samsara” – Victory Gardens Theater Anthony Fleming III (Queequeg/Ensemble) – “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium,K. Todd Freeman (Sissy Na Na) – “Airline Highway” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company Nic Grelli (Alvaro Mangiacavallo) – “The Rose Tattoo” – Shattered Globe Theatre Larry Yando (Benjamin Hubbard) – “The Little Foxes” – Goodman Theatre

Allen Gilmore and Alfred H. Wilson in “Waiting for Godot” at Court Theatre. | Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Inc.

Allen Gilmore and Alfred H. Wilson in “Waiting for Godot” at Court Theatre. | Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Inc.

+ ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL: Matthew Crowle (Hysterium) – “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Devin DeSantis (Marius) – “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre; Sean Allan Krill (Colonel Brandon) – “Sense and Sensibility” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Ross Lehman (Moonface Martin) – “Anything Goes” – Marriott Theatre; Travis Taylor (Lancelot) – “Camelot” – Drury Lane Productions.

+ ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY: Annabel Armour (Virginia) – “The Clean House” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; Dana Black (Actor 6) – “Abraham Lincoln Was a F*gg*t” – About Face Theatre; Kate Buddeke (Tanya) – “Airline Highway” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Kate Buddeke (Terry) – “Side Man” – American Blues Theater; Patrese D. McClain (Shatique) – “White Guy on the Bus” – Northlight Theatre;

Cassidy Slaughter-Mason (Avery Willard) – “Rapture, Blister, Burn” – Goodman Theatre.

+ ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL: Michelle Aravena (Anita) – “West Side Story” – Drury Lane Productions Kristen Choi (Lady Thiang) – “The King and I” – Marriott Theatre Marya Grandy (Hildy Esterhazy) – “On the Town” – Marriott Theatre Meghan Murphy (Oolie/Donna) – “City of Angels “ – Marriott Theatre Colette Todd (Sandra Bloom) – “Big Fish” – Theatre at the Center

+ NEW WORK – PLAY: Bruce Graham – “White Guy on the Bus” – Northlight Theatre; Laura Jacqmin – “Look, we are breathing” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble; Rohina Malik – “The Mecca Tales” – Chicago Dramatists; PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger – “The Project(s)” – American Theater Company; Caitlin Parrish – “The Downpour” – Route 66 Theatre Company;Mat Smart – “The Royal Society of Antarctica” – The Gift Theatre.

+ NEW WORK – MUSICAL: Paul Gordon – “Sense and Sensibility” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; GQ, JQ, Jackson Doran, Postell Pringle – “A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Jessica Thebus, Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert – “Shining Lives: A Musical” – Northlight Theatre.

+ NEW ADAPTATION: David Catlin – “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium; Sean Graney – “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites;Nambi E. Kelley – “Native Son” – Court Theatre and American Blues Theater.

+ CHOREOGRAPHY: Brock Clawson – “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre; Rhett Guter – “West Side Story” – Drury Lane Productions; Danny Herman – “All Shook Up” – Theatre at the Center; Rachel Rockwell – “Billy Elliot, the Musical” – Drury Lane Productions; Alex Sanchez – “On the Town” – Marriott Theatre.

Kareen Bandealy and Christopher Donahue in “Moby-Dick” at Lookingglasss Theatre. | PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN

Kareen Bandealy and Christopher Donahue in “Moby-Dick” at Lookingglasss Theatre. | PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN

+ ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY: Victoria Deiorio – “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago; Andrew Hansen – “My Name is Asher Lev” – TimeLine Theatre Company; Henry Marsh – “Pericles” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Richard Woodbury – “The Little Foxes” – Goodman Theatre.

+ MUSIC DIRECTION: Austin Cook – “Sondheim on Sondheim” – Porchlight Music Theatre;Paul Litteral – “Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara” – HackFeld LLC; Doug Peck – “The Secret Garden” – Court Theatre; Malcolm Ruhl – “Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash” – Mercury Theater Chicago and Theatre at the Center; Tom Vendafreddo – “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre.

+ SCENIC DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Ira Amyx and Merje Veski – “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago; John Holt – “Accidentally Like a Martyr” – A Red Orchid Theatre; Jeffrey D. Kmiec – “Watch on the Rhine” – The Artistic Home; Angela Weber Miller – “The Gravedigger” – First Folio Theatre; Sarah Ross – “The Rose Tattoo” – Shattered Globe Theatre; Grant Sabin – “Yankee Tavern” – American Blues Theater.

+ SCENIC DESIGN (LARGE): Linda Buchanan – “Two Trains Running” – Goodman Theatre;Kevin Depinet – “The Game’s Afoot” – Drury Lane Productions; Kevin Depinet and Jeffrey D. Kmiec – “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre; Jack Magaw – “The Diary of Anne Frank” – Writers Theatre; Scott Pask – “Airline Highway” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Todd Rosenthal – “The Little Foxes” – Goodman Theatre; Joey Wade – “Grand Concourse” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

LIGHTING DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Brian Sidney Bembridge – “The Royale” – American Theater Company; Maggie Fullilove-Nugent – “Endgame” – The Hypocrites; Lee Keenan – “The Hammer Trinity, Part 3: The Excelsior King” – The House Theatre of Chicago; Jared Moore – “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites; Julian Pike – “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago.

LIGHTING DESIGN (LARGE): Lee Fiskness – “Camelot” – Drury Lane Productions; Greg Hofmann – “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre; Jesse Klug – “Les Misérables” – Paramount Theatre; Jesse Klug – “Pericles” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Marc Stubblefield – “Native Son” – Court Theatre and American Blues Theater.

+ COSTUME DESIGN (MIDSIZE): Mara Blumenfeld and Mieka Van Der Ploeg – “Mr. Burns: a post-electric play” – Theater Wit; Rachel Lambert – “Travesties” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; Frances Maggio – “The Addams Family” – Mercury Theater Chicago; Bill Morey – “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Alison Siple – “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites.

COSTUME DESIGN (LARGE): Dede M. Ayite – “Marie Antoinette” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Theresa Ham – “Mary Poppins” – Paramount Theatre; Susan E. Mickey – “Sense and Sensibility” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Nancy Missimi – “The King and I” – Marriott Theatre; Nancy Missimi – “La Cage aux Folles” – Marriott Theatre.

+SOUND DESIGN (MIDSIZE): John Corkill and Alex Monroe – “Macbeth” – The Artistic Home; Victoria Deiorio – “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago; Joshua Horvath – “The Hammer Trinity, Part 3: The Excelsior King” – The House Theatre of Chicago; Kevin O’Donnell – “All Our Tragic” -The Hypocrites; Rick Sims – “Side Man” – American Blues Theater; Rick Sims – “Twisted Melodies” – Congo Square Theatre Company.

+ SOUND DESIGN (LARGE): Joshua Horvath – “Native Son” – Court Theatre and American Blues Theater; Lindsay Jones – “King Lear” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Lindsay Jones – “Marie Antoinette” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Andre Pluess – “Iphigenia in Aulis” – Court Theatre; Josh Schmidt – “The Diary of Anne Frank” – Writers Theatre; Rick Sims – “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium.

+ PROJECTIONS/VIDEO DESIGN: Smooch Medina – “The White Road” – Irish Theatre of Chicago ;Aaron Rhyne – “Pericles” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Jeff Sugg – “Marie Antoinette” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Mike Tutaj – “Mary Poppins” – Paramount Theatre; Mike Tutaj – “Sondheim on Sondheim” – Porchlight Music Theatre; Mike Tutaj – “The Who’s Tommy” – Paramount Theatre.

+ FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY: David Blixt – “Macbeth” – The Artistic Home; Ryan Bourque – “All Our Tragic” – The Hypocrites; Matt Hawkins – “West Side Story” – Drury Lane Productions; John Tovar – “Camelot” – Drury Lane Productions.

+ ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION: Dave Bova – Hair and Makeup Design – “Marie Antoinette” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Jesse Mooney-Bullock – Puppet Design – “The Hammer Trinity, Part 3: The Excelsior King” – The House Theatre of Chicago; Marco Ramirez and Stephanie Paul – Rhythm and Percussion – “The Royale” – American Theater Company;Isaac Schoepp – Rigging Design – “Moby Dick” – Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with The Actors’ Gymnasium.

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